Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Monday, December 27, 2010
Quick Tip #1 - Taking time to spend one on one time with dogs or children can make your life easier.
When the dogs or children are driving me nuts I have to stop and think about the last time I gave them all my attention. Usually it's been a little while. Just a 30 minute walk or a quick board game or trip to Little People land can do wonders to settle attention seekers and allow me to get more done. And I feel less guilty.
Bringing Home Baby
The Cat Edition
Go through the owner surrender cards at any shelter or rescue or look through a classifieds section and you will see a sad number of cats being given up because of a new baby. Sometimes it is an automatic response. For years old wives' tales told of cats sucking the breath from children and passing dangerous diseases around. Modern times have shown us that cats do not deliberately harm babies and that basic good hygiene protects everyone from the spread of disease. Other times new parents make quick decisions based on the emotions and disruption that happen in the first few weeks or months of a new family member and fear for the well being of their baby and/or the cat. With some preparation, this also can be less of an issue. I am certainly no expert on cat behavior, but I have successfully kept my two cats and my daughter living under the same roof for three years now. Here are some of the things I have discovered in that time.
Many people don't think about helping cats adjust to the presence of a new baby. Just because we do not typically train them the way we do dogs does not mean they will just automatically adjust to a baby. In general letting a cat pick her own pace is the best way to go, but you can help make the transition to the baby easier. One of the easiest ways is to play a baby sounds CD just as you would with a dog.
Also as with dogs, it is important to start making changes to the cat's routine and living space as soon as possible. This is especially important if you need to move the litter box. Some cats will search out the litter box no matter where you put it, but most cats are not this forgiving. Decide where you want the box to be and move it a little closer every day. Make sure it is cleaned daily so the cat has less of an excuse to avoid it. (But of course, please let the non-pregnant do the cleaning!!!)
Less tricky is deciding if food and water bowls or cat beds need to be moved for feline or baby safety. Water dishes are very fun to tip over and play in depending on size could present a drowning hazard. Dry cat food can be a choking hazard, while wet or raw cat food can harbor bacteria. Placing these items on a sturdy, secured cat tree or shelf not only protect your child, but give your cat a much needed “baby-free zone.”
Baby-free zones should be available to the cat on each level of your house. This can be a high perch (sturdy enough that a baby or toddler cannot pull the item over on themselves or the cat) or a room closed off by a gate or cat door. The space will be important during the initial chaos of bringing the baby home and especially as your child gets older and mobile. Most cats want to avoid unpleasantness once the baby is moving around, so giving them an escape is vital to everyone's happiness.
While most cats will try to escape rather than put up with a child's enthusiastic love, there are always a few who will stay or who are not fast enough to get out of range. Teaching a child the proper way to show love for the kitty is vital. Modeling “gentle pets” on the baby's own arm and encouraging soft, one handed petting instead of hugs are excellent things to start doing as soon as the baby is old enough to notice the cat. Keeping the cat's nails trimmed is just as vital to make sure any defense from the cat does as little damage as possible. You really cannot blame a cat for defending herself the only way she can when she is hurt or scared, but you can minimize scratches.
It is important to have cat-free zones as well as baby-free zones. While most of us accept the fact that cats do not suck the breath out of infants, the fact is that infants are warm, smell like milk, and are smaller than the average cat. An innocent nap for the cat can cause panic for the parents. Start keeping the cat out of the baby's room today, either by keeping the door closed or by installing a screen door so you can hear and see the baby but the cat cannot get in.
Baby toys are incredibly irresistible to cats for the same reason babies love them. They are warm, soft, cuddly, and comfortable. As adorable as it can be to see the cat curled up in the bouncy seat, you may not want to encourage the behavior. Cats can be positively trained just as dogs are. Shaking a treat jar and telling the cat “off” as it gets up to investigate is an effective way to train the cat to get up on cue. Providing even more irresistible bedding and moving the cat to that area whenever she naps in the wrong spot is also helpful.
Sometimes cats do need some extra encouragement to leave the comforts of baby items alone. In those cases there are some relatively harmless deterrents you can use. There are commercial products such as Scat-Mats, which use static electricity, or SSSCat and Spray Sentry, which use compressed air, to dissuade a cat from a crib or blanket. Or you can use something simpler such as balloons, tin foil, carpet tape, nubby plastic carpet protectors (the side you usually toward the carpet), or netting to discourage a cat. Since they are mostly interested in comfort, most cats will break the habit of trying to access those areas after a few weeks of finding them blocked.
Baby sounds CD:
Websites and Online resources:
http://dogtrainersbaby.blogspot.com/- one dog trainer's blog comparing raising her daughter to how she trains her dogs.
www.ourdogsonline.com – a very supportive community with good advice about dog training, care, nutrition, etc.
www.sitstay.com, amazon.com, www.cleanrun.com, www.planetdog.com – just a few places where you can find many toys and supplies to keep your dog occupied.
Problem-Solving Toys and Chewies:
Kong and Goodie Ship – available at most pet stores and wonderful for placing food and treats in, topping with peanut butter, cream cheese, yogurt, etc. and freezing.
Tricky Treat Ball, Moleculeball, Twist & Treat – toys that can hold almost an entire meal's worth of dog food, but takes at least 15 minutes to empty. These can be found in local pet stores or online.
Sonik Soft Dog Toys – squeaky toys that only your dog can hear.
Chase N Pull Dog Toy and Nifty Pet Exerciser – two different toys that your dog can chase while you're sitting in a comfortable place.
Orbee Tuffee balls and bones – you can stuff them with treats or some dogs just like them as they are. The balls tend to bounce on their own, which can keep a dog busy for quite some time. They've held up fairly well to the power-chewing Lab's jaws, as well as to the incessant teething of my Collie puppy.
Bully Sticks – www.bullysticksonline.com is where I've found the best price for bullies that don't smell, but I'm sure you can find them elsewhere.
Antler Chews – found at http://www.petexpertise.com, among other places.
This list was compiled while I was confined to bed rest at the end of my first pregnancy.
My poor dog Cousteau didn’t know what to make of his mom not getting off the couch or
out of bed. I had been his primary source of fun and mental stimulation and now I wasn’t
much of anything. And, since the baby was due within a matter of weeks, I knew that
things weren’t going to get any more exciting for Cousteau in the near future. Here are
some things I did (or wished I did) to make sure my dog knew that he was still a part of
this family. Keep these things in mind whether you are expecting a new addition to your
family, you are temporarily out of commission, life takes a hectic turn for awhile, or any
reason you find yourself with less time than you’re used to.
1.) Review what your dog already knows. Not only does this remind your dog that the old
rules still apply in a new situation, but quick drills exercise your dog’s mind and can help
him relax. Don’t worry about trying to find a 30 minute chunk of time – taking a minute
or two here and there as you go about your day is just as effective. So, use that down time
while you’re waiting for coffee to brew, as your computer boots up, something cooks in
the microwave, on your way to the mailbox, or even in the bathroom to spend some
quality time with your dog.
2.) Teach your dog a new trick. Things like turning in a circle, offering a paw, rolling
over, crawling, etc. are relatively easy to teach in short training sessions of a few minutes
here and there. They are also relatively low pressure to teach and are just plain fun!
3.) Use modern technology to make your life easier. There are many devices on the
market that allow you to launch a tennis ball a great distance with very little effort on
your part. My favorite is the Chuck It which works wonders for taking the edge off of a
ball crazy dog. A Chuck It, a lawn chair (for you) and 10 minutes before or after work
may not completely exhaust your dog, but it can help. Or if it’s dark when you have time
to spend time with your dog, there are a number of glow in the dark balls on the market.
4.) Investigate the possibility of a dog walker or doggie day care. Most dogs really
benefit from the care of experienced professionals in these services. You benefit from a
dog that has had physical and mental exercise as well as companionship for a portion of
5.) Enlist the help of trusted relatives, neighbors, or friends. Asking someone to take your
dog with them on their daily walk, with their dog to the dog park, for an overnight visit,
or to come over and play fetch with your dog can really give you and your dog a break. If
you don’t have anyone like that near you, there is no shame in checking your dog into a
kennel for a night to give you a bit of a rest. Some kennels are more like summer camps
with lots of activities and play for your dog – she probably won’t even know you’re
6.) Enroll in a class. Most classes are only 45-60 minutes a week – not so much time in
the grand scheme of things. If your dog’s obedience is already pretty good consider
trying something new like Rally, agility, flyball, tricks and games, canine musical
freestyle, or a therapy dog class. Even if you never compete, it can be fun to learn new
things with your dog. Shuffling your schedule to make time can be difficult, but
ultimately worth it.
7.) Take a walk. We all know that 30 minutes of exercise 4-5 times a week is beneficial
for our health. Combine a healthy activity with your dog’s quality time and you both win!
If your dog doesn’t walk nicely on a leash, consider using a product such as a Gentle
Leader, or Easy Walk harness to better manage your dog.
8.) Groom. No matter if your dog has long or short hair, grooming is an important aspect
of dog ownership. Not only can it help to reduce shedding, deal with mats, improve skin
condition, and make your dog look his best, but it is a nice way for the two of you to
bond. If your dog doesn’t currently like getting groomed, this can be the time for you to
work on associating the brush, tooth brush, or nail trimmers with good and wonderful
9.) Designate a co-pilot. If the weather is cool enough (less than 70 degrees) and your dog
likes car rides, bring her along while you run errands. A crate or special dog seat belt will
keep your canine co-pilot safe and confined in the backseat while still allowing the dog to
look out the window for a change of scenery. And it gives you someone to talk to while
discussing the heritage and intelligence of the other drivers on the road.
10.) Take five to cuddle. What could be a nicer way to start or end your day than taking
five or ten minutes to just sit quietly with your dog and cuddle? Studies have shown that
petting an animal helps us to decompress from stress and it is just as good for your dog as
it is for you. So ignore the phone, leave the email unanswered, or soak dishes in the sink
and curl up with your dog on the couch or with some floor pillows and just enjoy being
together. After all, isn’t that why we got our dogs in the first place?
©2005 Jill R. Miller – Originally posted at www.ourdogsonline.com